Police officers won’t talk about missing property along border
Depositions of law officers and a mill manager who are members of a polygamous sect on the Utah/Arizona border illustrate the challenges a court-appointed fiduciary faces in safeguarding the assets of the community’s property trust.
The men – including Hildale/Colorado City Town Marshal Fred Barlow – repeatedly refused to answer questions about a missing grain elevator, or to affirm that they will obey court orders over edicts from leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Attorneys for the fiduciary, Bruce Wisan, had given Barlow and two deputies, including one they have been unable to interview, until Thursday to set a date to continue the deposition.
They got no response, and will now ask an Arizona judge to compel the lawmen and others to answer questions about the missing property.
Wisan also has asked state authorities to pursue decertification of Barlow and his deputies on the grounds that they failed to prevent removal of trust property or to fully investigate what happened to it.
“We’d be better off without any police than these police,” said Jeffrey Shields, one of Wisan’s attorneys. “It is clear to me that they can not fulfill their duty as certified police officers. They know more about that theft of that grain elevator than they are willing to tell us.”
Rich Townsend, director of the Utah Police Officer Standards and Training Board, met with Barlow a week ago to review his duty to obey court orders and cooperate with Wisan. For now, Wisan’s complaint is in a “holding pattern” while courts address the situation, said Sgt. Wade Breur, a Public Safety spokesman.
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg appointed Wisan last May to oversee the United Effort Plan Trust, which holds virtually all property in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., home to some 8,000 members of the FLDS church.
Wisan asked for Barlow’s help on Dec. 31 after he learned that a crew was dismantling a grain elevator at the Four Square Mill in Colorado City. Barlow sent a deputy to investigate and later told Wisan that a mill representative agreed to stop the work.
Within days, however, the elevator disappeared.
Wisan maintains the elevator is a UEP asset and was wrongfully removed; a mill manager contends it is private property, a view Barlow accepts.
But Lindberg ordered Wisan to try to recover the elevator and other missing property. His attorneys took the depositions Feb. 16-17 as part of that effort.
Barlow, who has been marshal for Hildale and Colorado City for about six months, replaced Sam Roundy, who was decertified by Utah and Arizona because he was a polygamist.
In his deposition, Barlow indicated little has been done to trace the missing elevator or find out who took it. Asked if he recognized Wisan as the authority over the trust, Barlow remained silent. He also kept quiet when asked if he recognized Lindberg’s authority or understood she had removed FLDS members as UEP trustees.
Barlow said he couldn’t recall which of his five Arizona-certified officers he sent to check out the mill. He also said he hadn’t read a subsequent report on the missing elevator.
The marshal, a life-long resident of the community, refused to answer questions about church leaders’ instructions or church activities and claimed to know little about residents, including names and addresses.
Deputy Sam Johnson acknowledges in his deposition that FLDS leaders have instructed him “several times” to disregard Wisan. Johnson said he could not recall who told him that and refused to identify those leaders.
At one point another of Wisan’s attorneys, Zachary Shields, asks Johnson to describe how that instruction might interfere with his duties as a deputy.
“You refuse to answer that question?” Shields says.
Johnson nods his head, prompting Shields to ask, “Is that a yes?”
“I refuse to answer that question,” Johnson says.